How To Rent A Car, or The Importance of Acting Classes

A friend and I recently went to the big city. I am typically prepared, i.e. obnoxiously over-prepared with hotel reservations, car rental, opening and closing times of all the stores we want to go to. We arrive at the car rental place and pick up the keys.

While Lily runs back into the airport to get a map, I adjust mirrors, tune radio, get AC vents correctly positioned and move the seat. She pops in and we are ready to speed off. I go to put the car in ‘drive’ – opps. It’s a standard transmission! Who rents out standard transmission cars?

I know that if we go back in and switch cars, we won’t get to mall before it closes so Lily agrees to drive. (She CAN drive standard but didn’t want to in a new town.) We get to mall and I (while power-shopping) pull out my cell and call various offices explaining that we need an automatic car at the airport in one hour.

We finish shopping, go back to airport (which is on the way to hotel). I go inside. The men at the counter declare they do not have an automatic. No way. Not in the whole city is there an automatic car for hire. Period. Helas. Finished. I smile my Smile of Doom. Don’t go to cranky, my dear, cranky gives you wrinkles and thinning hair. I smile the smile that, if you were with me, you would have told the guys to put keys to their own cars on the counter and slowly back away.

But Darling, you were not there to rescue those men. So I smiled and in my sweetest voice, said, “Oh, I am so sorry. Really I am sorry. I am sure it all my fault because I did not specifically ask for an automatic. It is my fault, but the thing is I can’t drive a standard. And I am afraid I am hurting the car.” I pause. Then I act out me driving a standard car. Very badly. I shake back and forth and make gear-grinding noises with my teeth. There is utter silence in a 50 foot radius. One guy is laughing so hard is he practically crying and the other is rooted with horror.

“I am really sorry,” I repeat. “But your car…” I mime switching gears, shaking back and forth as my imaginary car tries desperately to pull gas into the engine. More gear grinding, whining engine, car in distress noises. All business being transacted at the other 8 car rental places stops as clerks and customers stare at me.

The two guys decide that they will do their very very very best for me and they are pretty sure they can get an automatic car delivered to my hotel the next morning. Big smile. “Thank you!”

I call them the next morning at 9am. At 10am a brand new, fully optioned sky blue Camry pulls up to the doorman. It has 42 kilometers on the odometer. 42. Lily and I go shopping. Two hours later, the office calls and says they haven’t had time to do any of the paperwork yet, could I please tell them what the license plate number is?

As we have lunch, Lily calls her husband and tells him that I forced a car rental place to go out and buy a new car for my personal comfort. I say 5 years of acting classes did not go to waste.